Book review: The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable, By Carol Baxter


Reading his account of a real-life crime in 1845 is an experience close to time travel. Through impressive research and unshowy prose, Baxter whisks us back to the start of the modern age.

By means of the world's first electric telegraph, railway police in Paddington were alerted to a murder suspect "in the garb of a Kwaker" (the early telegraph couldn't manage "Q').

Baxter's pursuit of this unlikely figure involves a long detour to her Australian homeland and other fascinating meanders concerning poisons, railways and criminality. In short, it is totally irresistible.